The 1940s Vintage Weekend at Bletchley Park is one of our busiest events. It takes place twice a year (spring/summer and late summer) and is becoming a major fixture on the vintage calendar. There’s several reenactment groups, lots of vintage traders, bands, a dance tent and food traders. Everything you’d expect from a big 1940s event.
We provide all-day DJ and dancing and also spend a lot of time talking with visitors and posing for photos. It’s a true 1940s event that attracts a lot of vintage enthusiasts, so one where we take historical accuracy very seriously.
Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes was the home of the British codebreaking in WW2. It is now a major heritage attraction with a large site comprised of the mansion, a lake and multiple blocks and huts.
It is our job to welcome visitors to Bletchley Park with an instant blast of 1940s atmosphere. Upon arriving at Bletchley the visitors make their way through the Welcome Centre and emerge at a military police road block, (expertly manned by reenactment group 367 Provost Company) to the background sound of 1940s big band music. Once they’ve made it past the police they will find us before deciding to head up towards the huts or around the lake.
We’re positioned across the entrance to a car park which gives us plenty of room for dancing, and plenty of room for people to gather around to watch or take a closer look at the Jeep. It is easy for us to be placed in an open area as we have no power requirements.
We operate with our standard sound setup at Bletchley Park using one of our two speaker boxes, a bit under full volume. We don’t need to go any louder as we benefit from some rebound off the surrounding buildings in the area we’re in and heading the other way, we need to make sure our sound doesn’t travel to the far side of the lake, where other entertainment is located.
The event starts at 9:30am and the flow of visitors past us is constant. There’s a few thousand people visiting each day, many through organised coach tours. Perhaps unusually for a day event, we find there’s still a steady flow of arrivals until around 3pm (with the event finishing at 5pm).
At this event we are all day entertainment. The music runs continuously for the whole day (more on music later) and we dance throughout the day. There’s no set breaks, we dance throughout the morning, taking brief water breaks whenever we spot a lull in the visitor flow.
Rather than our breaks being complete ‘switch off’ times, we usually find ourselves posing for photos with the Jeep and people’s wives/children/dogs(!) and talking about our clothes, Lindy Hop and the Jeep. We have the pleasure of talking to people who have wonderful memories of dancing themselves in the 1940s or driving a Jeep during the war. One thing we are always told, the reputation of the GIs is well deserved! The Jeep’s bonnet gets opened for in-depth engine conversations at least a couple of times a day.
At Bletchley we play from 9:30am to 5pm with no breaks. For the majority of the day we are playing 1930s and 1940s swing music, with an emphasis to the American big band sound . As it’s an event where visitors are likely to be at Bletchley for the whole day, we use a 6.5 hour playlist, which is 137 songs, all original and all suitable for dancing Lindy Hop to. Click here for a taste of what this setlist includes.
When it gets to the point of the day when we see that instead of arrivals it’s all departures, we switch to our ‘going home’ music! This is mainly British music from the late 1930s/early 1940s and we feel it sets the right tone, with a gentler sound. We often see people singing along to ‘Run Rabbit Run’ or ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ on their way out, so we think they like it too! Click here for a taste of what this setlist includes.
“Thank you so much for joining us this past weekend. You were brilliant! Fantastic to work with and you created a fun, engaging and immersive experience for our visitors as they stepped onto our park.”